Drawing a diagram showing the sun and the planets at his school in northern Italy, teacher Vincenzo Miccichè demonstrates Kepler’s First Law of planetary motion like he has for many years in his earth science class.
Yet the 40-year-old teacher has some extra help this autumn in the form of Scienze Della Terra, a print-and-digital textbook programme introduced at the school this year – a book well-known in the U.S. and other markets as Earth Science by Edward J. Tarbuck and Frederick K. Lutgens, published by Pearson.
“It’s quite a complete text: Some books lack in either graphic sense or comprehensiveness, but this is good from both points of view,” says Mr. Miccichè, whose school, the Istituto Tecnico Ludovico Geymonat, is located about 35 kilometres north of Milan in the town of Tradate.
“I’ve been struck by the pictures, both their quality and quantity,” adds one of his students, pointing to photos of a solar eclipse and the Cancer or crab constellation. “The language is clear, effective, and can be easily read at home without the teacher.”
Intoxicating young people with science
Scienze Della Terra by Edward J. Tarbuck and Frederick K. Lutgens
Scienze Della Terra is part of a new secondary-school publishing programme introduced by Pearson in Italy last year, known as Linx. The new programme has transformed science education by integrating books, digital tools, teachers guides and a thrice-yearly periodical published both online and in print – Linx Magazine – all aimed at intoxicating young people with science.
“Un Anno Al Polo Sud,” or “A year at the South Pole,” is a typically accessible feature story in the magazine.
“It’s good to have a magazine to work with,” says another teacher, Grazia Ceruti, who has been at the school 11 years. Some science magazines are very technical, requiring explanation by teachers, “but you don’t have to be the middle person for this magazine” because students can easily understand it.
The Linx programme has been developed in conjunction with Pearson’s education businesses in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere, enabling Pearson in Italy to draw on the best digital content throughout the global company, and adapt it for the Italian market.
Starting with six books including the Tarbuck-Lutgens text in 2009, the programme was expanded this year to 14 additional books including popular Pearson texts such as Biology. Concepts and Connections by Neil A. Campbell, Biology by Kenneth R. Miller and Joseph Levine, and Physics by James S. Walker.
Linx fits into Italian education reforms
Adoption of the Linx books grew three-fold this year, helping Pearson to become market leader for combined lower and upper secondary education, which covers ages 11 to 18, based on school adoption figures from Italy’s publishing trade group.
Production of the Linx series dovetails with national education reforms in Italy designed to strengthen science education, after Italian students performed poorly in the international PISA test of science and math competency conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, despite strong computer and Internet skills.
“The idea was to create a new brand, with a new identity and a new mood for the Italian market,” says Massimo Esposti, science editorial director for Pearson in Italy. “The direction of the reforms was to move the schools to digital content and scientific citizenship.”
As with science, Pearson’s digital leadership in mathematics material will help the company meet Italy’s reforms to its maths curriculum, which requires any mathematics book adoption to require a digital component within the next two years.
From the beginning, Linx approached the market using a strategy of blending print and digital content, and now the "Linx system" – including books, a companion website, print and digital supplements, and the magazine – fits well with the government’s reform recommendations.
Under the new system, which began last year, many high school students now study earth science for five years – which means that teachers who make adoption decisions for the following year are in fact making a potential six-year commitment to a publisher.
‘Be With Us’ for six years
So Pearson last year launched a marketing slogan in Italy – “6 Con Noi” – which is a play on words, because the Italian word sei means both “six” and “be” – as in “Be With Us” for six years.
“It’s saying to teachers: ‘For six years, we will give you content for teaching, exercises, new materials, dialogue on how to use the book better, and updates for the book both digitally and on paper,” says Emilio Zanette, editorial director at Pearson in Italy. “The message is: ‘I won’t just sell books to you, I’ll help you to use them.’”
Pearson in 2007 acquired a majority stake in Paravia Bruno Mondadori Editori, which itself was formed from the 2000 merger of two publishing houses that began, respectively, in 1802 and 1946. The company has traditionally been strong in humanities at the secondary level, and the innovation of Linx has helped make Pearson a major player in sciences as well.
“The Linx material is very valid and new,” says Mr. Micciche, who has taught at the school for three years and for a decade overall. “The historical aspect is wider and more comprehensive, so the development of the scientific approach is more complete for the students.”